“I am making everything new “

IMG_7053This is beautiful, yet temporary hope in this broken world.

This is eternal hope for a world made new.

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

Revelation 21:1-8

Inside the mind of Alzheimer’s

Over the past few weeks podcasts have become my new obsession. I’ll admit it started because I was looking for something to listen to in-between Serial episodes (If you don’t know what I’m talking about stop reading and start binge listening to it immediately!).

One of the podcasts I stumble upon is Strangers. Though it’s not my favourite, I quite enjoy it and the latest episode (called Mind Shaft) blew me away. The host, Lea Thau, interviews Greg O’Brien, an investigative reporter diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Greg shares what’s it like to experience this horrible disease from the inside. He describes Alzheimer’s as dark and scary – ‘a mind that’s 5 miles deep’.

OnPlutoHe tells his story because ‘if I’m not pushing forward … I’m falling backwards’. He’s eloquent and charming and tells a fascinating story. But it’s also incredibly sad, because he knows how it ends.

Greg has also written a book about his experience called On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s. I’ve just bought it and will post more about it when I’ve read it.

Listen to the podcast here. Buy Greg’s book here.

The app every woman should know about

I’ve known about this app for a while. When I first heard about it I thought it was a brilliant, and possibly life-saving idea. And then I forgot all about it.

Until I read this article yesterday and 2 things terrified me.

  1. Queensland domestic violence help line calls are going unanswered. Because the need for help outweighs their capacity. So women who are in possibly life-threatening situations, aren’t able to get help.
  2. In Australia we have at least 1 Senator who believes it’s ok for a man to put a woman in a headlock sometimes. Frightening.

So, back to the Aspire News app. Created by Robin McGraw, here’s how her website describes it

ASPIRE News is a free application which contains summaries of top stories in world, sports, and entertainment news, from the When Georgia Smiled: Robin McGraw Foundation (and powered by Yahoo!).

Additionally, if someone you know is in an abusive relationship—or if that someone is you—the Help Section of the application contains resources for victims of domestic violence.

This app does not serve as a replacement for emergency services—in any situation where you feel that you may be at risk, please dial 911 or your local emergency number.

If you are caught in a domestic violence situation you can open the app (which looks like any run-of-the-mill news app) triple tap on the bar at the top of the screen and the app will send a pre-typed message to 3 trusted contacts, to let them know you need emergency help.

Every screen on the app also has a X that you can click to quickly exit back to the ‘news page’ if you need to hide what you’re doing.

Aspire News app is available for iPhone and Android. Find out more here.

We will tell the next generation…

From Psalm 78:4-7

We will not hide them from their descendants;
    we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
    his power, and the wonders he has done.
He decreed statutes for Jacob
    and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors
    to teach their children,
so the next generation would know them,
    even the children yet to be born,
    and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God
    and would not forget his deeds
    but would keep his commands.

Old Testament Israel had much to tell their children. Amongst the praiseworthy deeds of their Lord, was the salvation of a nation from slavery in Egypt. After such a miraculous display of power and love, you would hardly think they would need to be reminded to tell their children. Surely they would be telling their children at every opportunity because they want their kids to have trust in such a loving and powerful God. And wouldn’t they want their kids to be ready to tell the next generation too?

What about us? We’ve seen an act of salvation that exceeds the greatness of the exodus. Jesus’ death & resurrection is the greatest act of salvation the world has ever seen. It’s the greatest display of love, kindness, and power anyone will ever see. Surely, we should be telling our children of the praise worthy deeds of the Lord, at every opportunity – so that they would put their trust in the Lord and they in turn will tell their children?

Or do we, like the Israelites, need to be reminded to tell our children?

The responsibility to teach the next generation can not be delegated only to an elite group of people with gifts for teaching kids (though, certainly those who are gifted in that way should use their gifts!). Likewise, it can not be delegated only to parents. The responsibility to teach the next generation is all of ours. We are all members of God’s family, and this instruction is for all of us. From teaching kids’ church to SRE to simply reading the bible with a child, there are many ways for us to be a part of it.

How will you tell the next generation?

Really, it’s okay to be single

It’s also ok to read articles on singleness and disagree with them. Which happens often.

But this week I’ve read 2 excellent articles on singleness.

Sex and the Single Woman. I love everything about this article. This is particularly helpful

There are pieces of my testimony that I hate; that I might wish to rewrite. But even in my failure, God has written my life with his divine grace. Perhaps this struggle more than any other has made me more like Christ by forcing me to bank on his resume instead of my own.

Today, in order to worship God, my body needs to be hungry. Today, he is giving me the blessed pain of hunger, because it’s the only way I’m going to make it home. He has promised to do whatever it takes to get me home to him.

If you are ashamed, if you have failed, rest your heart in the fact that the gospel was made for just such a time. We don’t have a great high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses. Praise God that we have Jesus, who has walked in singleness; he was tempted in every way, yet he never succumbed. So draw near to im in repentance and faith, and receive mercy and find grace to help in your time of trouble.

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Really, It’s Okay To Be Single. Usually I wouldn’t read, let alone recommend, an article on singleness written by a married man. But this one is too good not to read. He ends by saying this

And so on the occasion of my 10 year wedding anniversary, I’d like to say this: it’s okay to not be married, really. God is not mad at you because you are single, and you have my permission to scoff at anyone who says otherwise, that marriage is God’s universal will for all people. There are plenty of passages in Scripture that talk about singleness and celibacy with deep honor and respect.

Moreover, marriage is good, even great, but it’s not perfect. There are things that you can do as a single person that I cannot. As Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians, as a married person with kids, my attention and energy is inherently divided among many concerns, but yours need not be. You can live fully for the Kingdom in a way that I simply cannot. Not to mention that you can also stay up late, making a ruckus while drinking beer with your friends, while I tiptoe around my house like a ninja and struggle to stay awake past 9 pm.

But on a more sober note, I know that you worry about being alone. But frankly, so do I, because marriage will not bulletproof your life from pain or loneliness or tragedy. People can be married and still feel desperately alone, or misunderstood, or even hated/hateful, all at the same time. Marriage can be like living with your best friend, but at times, it also can be like living with your worst enemy. In fact, fear, loss, and mourning take on terrifying new dimensions when you are married, because you will be faced with the prospect of losing part of yourself.

No, the antidote to loneliness is not found in marriage, at least not by itself. It is found in our relationship to a God who is always with us, the true Lover of our soul. If is found in friends and family. And it is found in the family of faith, the eternal community of the church.

So tomorrow I’m going to have a wonderful ten year anniversary with my wife, but that doesn’t mean you have to as well. Because REALLY…it’s okay to be single.

Both great articles, worth reading no matter what your marital status.

The Uncomfortable D or The worst Six Things about Living with Mental Illness – Part 2

The following post is part 2 of 2 written by a friend of my about her experience of living with a mental illness. For more info about mental health visit Beyond Blue or Black Dog Institute. Read Part 1 here

Part 2

The drugs don’t work (at least not as well as they should)

To drastically misquote Douglas Adams – the brain is complex, you won’t believe how ridiculously, mind-bogglingly complex it is. You think a Sunday morning crossword is complicated, that’s peanuts compared to the brain.

Not only that, but every brain is different – development, experience and those pesky genetics cough up random variations, any of which might make those squishy grey lumps process drugs differently. In short, it’s not just corporate greed that has forced thousands of products into the market – the simple truth is that what works for one person might have no effect (or worse) on another.

Let me be clear, drugs do help a lot of people, I myself probably wouldn’t be alive if I hadn’t gotten treatment, but it can be a long process – mixing and matching different combinations of drugs until you find a cocktail that works, preferably one with few side effects – it can (and has in my case) take years.

But the key word above is ‘treatment’ – because when we’re talking about mental illness we’re not talking about a cure. There’s no tumour to remove, or bacteria to flush out – no quick fixes or easy answers – most patients will be on medication for years, even decades. Decades of taking the same pills every day, no matter how sick you are, or how sick they might make you. Doctors have a word for this – ‘compliance’ and mental illness has some of the worst compliance issues of any disease.

Taking a pill (or even a dozen) every day might seem like an easy thing – but what if you’re on holiday, and forgot to pack enough? What if they make you sleep 18 hours a day? What if they don’t seem to be working, and they taste funny and what’s the point anyway – you’re a horrible person who doesn’t deserve to keep breathing? Add that to a turbulent home life and poor social support that afflict so many sufferers and you’ve got a recipe for non-compliance.

The actual disease part

Yes. This is the part where I straight up bitch about how hard my life is because of my disease. Feel free to ignore it and then comment about how I’m making my illness out to be so much worse than it actually is. You won’t be proving my first point at all.

Let’s start with the physical. About six years ago they put me on lithium, which screwed up my thyroid (the gland that regulates metabolism). I’ll be on thryroxine replacement for the rest on my life.

And then there’re those pesky side effects. Over the years I’ve been on drugs that have made me put on weight, sleep 18 hours a day and made me so dizzy I had to check in to hospital. And it’s not like just stopping the drugs will help – you have to be weaned off many anti-psychotics, or the symptoms get even worse.

It also affects my finances. I haven’t been able to hold down a job for years, and finding a boss patient enough to deal with someone like me would be difficult even with a full CV.

I pay about $100 a month on drugs, which might not sound like much, but on a fixed income, and with the expensive doctor visits, it adds up – even without Tony Abbotts’ threatened austerity measures.

But none of those are anything compared to the mental issues. I have bipolar two manic depression, which for me consists of massive depressive episodes interspersed with random periods of moderate lunacy – I’ve never walked the streets naked singing My Sharona, but I have dumped a slushie over my head on a freezing day. I spend at least one night a month crying myself to sleep, have days when I can’t get out of bed, and had a panic attack at my sisters’ wedding that meant I couldn’t make it to the reception (am dreading explaining that to any future nieces and nephews). I am, frankly, a mess, and despite being better this year than I have been for the last three, I am still at least six months away from being able to support myself.

Yes, my life sucks, and I wonder everyday why I don’t just kill myself, but I don’t because…

I can’t trust my own brain

About eight years ago I was a medical student. I loved being a medical student. I love medicine. If I could do anything in the world it would be a Doctor. And then I had my first major manic episode.

Out of the blue I quit medicine because… I have no idea, but at the time it was a logical, sane and completely rational reason. I have a lot of logical, sane and completely rational reasons – I had one when I stopped taking all my drugs, when I tried to take my own life, when I bought a puppy with my very last pay check.

My brain is sick, so all my reasoning is flawed – I can’t trust anything that comes out of it. I can’t make snap decisions, because I know that tomorrow might make everything seem different. I can’t argue with people, even if I think they’re wrong, because I know that my logic might make no sense whatsoever. I have to constantly question everything I feel about the world, because what’s in my head might not match up with reality. Can you imagine what that’s like? To never be sure if you’re perfectly sane or off-your-head-crazy? And I don’t even have the hallucinations that other sufferers have to deal with.

So I guess it could be worse. And for many others it is. But the question remains, do I publish this under my own name, or get a friend to put it up for me? Will people read this and shun me, or employers check on it and decide I’m not worth the risk? A cancer sufferer wouldn’t have to worry about this, but I have to, because mental illness isn’t just a disease, it’s a plague that infects everything you do.

The Uncomfortable D or The worst Six Things about Living with Mental Illness – Part 1

This week is Mental Health Week. Despite the fact that 1 in 5 Australians will suffer from a mental illness in any given year, there is still far too much stigma surrounding it. 
The following post is part 1 of 2 written by a friend of my about her experience of living with a mental illness. For more info about mental health visit Beyond Blue or Black Dog Institute

The Uncomfortable D or The worst Six Things about Living with Mental Illness

The Stigma

So you’re having a good day, and then, out of the blue, a friend tells you they’ve got cancer. How do you respond to that?

The correct answer, for all you sociopaths out there, is with sympathy. As a halfway decent friend you’ll support them – bake cookies for them, come visit them in hospital, back them up as much as you can. After all it isn’t their fault, – cancer can happen to anyone.

Now imagine that same friend told you they had a mental illness. Would your attitude be the same?

My guess is no. If you’re like most people I know, your response is going to be less ‘Oh my God, I’m so sorry. What can I do?’ and more ‘Wow, this conversation just took a really awkward turn.’

Why is that? Why does having one chronic, life altering and (at times) deadly disease get you sympathy, while admitting to the other gets you shunned? And having a mental illness will get you shunned – not as badly as in the past perhaps, but even today admitting to depression, bipolar or schizophrenia in a job interview is a sure-fire way to never hear from them again.

Live with mental illness, and you’ll find yourself splitting the world into two categories, those who can know and those who can’t. The difficulty is in knowing which is which. Tell the wrong person and that’s the end of the conversation and possibly the relationship as well. I try to be an honest person, but if a stranger asks me why I don’t work, I tell them I have chronic fatigue.

But why do I have to lie about it? – Asks the small green alien who’s right now reading this from Rygel 12. You have a disease, and surely one disease is no worse than another. Well, life form from another world, I lie because here on Earth, admitting to a mental illness is tantamount to admitting that you regularly talk to small green aliens from the planet Rygel 12. Tell people that you’re mentally ill, and suddenly that’s all they can see.

I can’t tell you how much I hate being defined by my disease. I’m crazy, but I’m also a good flatmate, good sister and occasionally a good cook. I’m crazy, but that doesn’t make me any less of a person. I am more than my messed up head, so don’t judge me on it. And don’t judge me by what shows up on the news, because if you judge any of us by that the Rygelians will wipe us out for the good of the galaxy.

The Attitudes

Someone once told me that mental illness is the rape of the disease spectrum. After being outraged and offended, I actually came to realise that they had a point. Mental illness and rape are the only cases in their respective fields where it’s acceptable to blame the victims.

Yes, I know that’s not always true. Decent, rational people everywhere recognise that a woman wearing a short skirt is not asking to be raped, that the crime is always the fault of the criminal, and that the perpetrators should be castrated with a hot poker and a spoon, but we’re not all decent people, and we’re certainly not always rational.

With mental illness it’s the same – the responsibility for the disease is placed, not on the bastard son of circumstance and genetics, but on the sufferers, as though we’re sick because of some weakness within us, or because we don’t have the right attitude.

I have been told (or yelled at, to be honest) to just get better, to get over it, as if my disease is somehow under my control, as if I’m just pretending, or doing it for the attention. For what other illness would that attitude be acceptable? How many cancer sufferers do you know get told that they’re not trying hard enough?

‘We all get sad sometimes – I just don’t dwell on it,’ ‘There’s plenty of people out there who have it worse than you,’ ‘You’d be more loved if you made yourself more lovable,’ – these are all phrases I’ve heard, from people who are genuinely trying to help, mind, and all fundamentally fail to understand the problem. I’m not just sad – my brain has forgotten how to be happy. People might have it worse, but I’m feeling pretty bad right now. I need to be loved, because I no longer love myself. 

The Loneliness

Earlier I mentioned visiting friends in hospital, something that I hope most have you have done at some point, or you will do if someone you know gets sick, (if you know someone who is currently sick consider this a hint). Hospitals are unpleasant places at the best of time, and seeing a friendly face really helps you get through it.

I mention this because, back when I was first diagnosed I spent two months in a mental hospital, and other than my magnificent family I was visited by exactly one friend, once, and that hurt more than all of the other stuff that was happening to me.

And that was back when I actually had friends, before I got put in the ‘too hard’ basket because I kept skipping meetings, and my agoraphobia got so bad I couldn’t leave my house.

Do you have any idea how hard that is? To struggle to relate to people who can’t really understand what you’re going through, and frankly are too put off by your illness to even try? And it’s not like I’m not a social person. One day I’d like to meet someone, have a family (although the thought of passing this onto my kids is terrifying), but the way things stand it feels like that’s never going to happen. My disease pretty much guarantees I’ll be miserable for the rest of my life, do I have to be alone too?

(to be continued…)